Woolf 2000

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Woolf, D. R. Reading History in Early Modern England. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000.

opens by pointing out the (somewhat arbitrary) importance of the printed book to the discipline of history —>

“As readers, we now take it for granted that history is to be found principally in books. Yet that is a matter of practice, and has not always been the case. There is, in fact, no law, natural or otherwise, that necessitates the placing of historical discourse into a hard or paperbound codex. Nor does it take place there exclusively, for all our stress on the book. Historical knowledge can be acquired in other forms also” (1)

surprising, then, that there’s little “about the history of the history book ‘’as’’ book” (1)

two streams leading to this: history of the book and historiography

in historiography, “we have evaluated past historians and historical scholars … almost entirely according to the standards practiced by our discipline in its post-Rankean, modern shape” (3)”

“the present text is less concerned with the sense of the past than with ‘history proper,’ but ‘’not’’ with historical texts as such: my goal, quite simply, is to combine historiography with the history f books, readers, and libraries.” (5)

not interest in method, style, etc., of early modern historians ; instead “devoted to the after-life of historical texts, as words written on paper or parchment made their way from author through printer and publisher and into book form; how those books then were distributed and marketed; who was collecting them and for what reasons; where and how they were stored, retrieved and shared; and how readers made sense of them” (6)

starts with readers to avoid trap of thinking historical knowledge only flows in one directions; readers “very clearly used what they had, revised it in various ways, lent their books to others, and ultimately shaped the commercial boundaries of what could be published. Readers represent not the end of a line, but a component in an on-going system of knowledge production that Robert Danton once called a communications circuit, but which is far more dynamic and complex than even that useful metaphor suggests.” (6)

Fussier located “historical revolution” between 1580 and 1640, but “The true historical revolution in England was not the late Elizabethan and early Stuart working-out of proper historical method, or, as Arthur Ferguson would have it, that era’s discovery of the idea of long-term social change. Rather, the revolution, which was a slow one, lay in the much longer-lasting change in sensibility, taste, and manners that turned history first from the minor pastime of a small number of monastic chroniclers and civic officials into a major area of study and leisurely pursuit of university students, lawyers, aspiring courtiers, and ordinary readers, and thence into a much more broadly appealing genre that straddled the worlds of scholarship and literature culture.” (7)

book focuses on 1475-1730

“begins with the Indian summer of the earliest form of history book in England, the chronicle”, which “at first appeared to have adapted itself quite happily to the age of print”, humanist history “did not take hold” until “the very end of the 16c” — but chronicle disappearing by 1570s and virtually vanished in 17c (8)